Over the past years, the concept of the Digital Enterprise has attracted a lot of interest with many technology companies and consulting firms expressing their views with regard to what a Digital Enterprise is all about, both from the strategy and technology point of view. It is important to note how such views converge and differentiate in order to grasp a more complete perspective of how key industrial players in the market envision the Digital Enterprise.
Microsoft  proposes its vision for a digital enterprise that is based on its Cloud Computing infrastructure, called Azure. Emphasis is given on IoT and its interfaces with relative applications through the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. Its main goal is to convince B2B clients to pay the company’s SaaS and IaaS solutions. Nevertheless, the proposed architecture has some interesting parts. In particular, there are four main components in the “Microsoft value chain”:
- Device Connectivity & management: this component is connected with wireless devices and sensors, as well as wired systems, and facilitates through interfaces the control and management process.
- Data Management & insights: this value-chain component allows connectivity with existing systems in order to run analysis over data, export KPIs and facilitate decision-making.
- Advanced Analytics: this component exposes analytics for all the integrated data, to anticipate problems and find added value on data. Microsoft separates them from Data insights because of the different time perspective, as the previous component refers more to offline data mining.
- Business Productivity & process optimization: This component refers to common enterprise automation, operations and service engineering, like ERP and CRM systems.
The applications and user-endpoints with the external environment, for these components are:
- Custom LOB app: Custom Line-of-Business (LOB) applications can adapt on the needs of the client, based on previously discussed solutions, and adapt on business operations and sessions. Retail and automotive are some of the examples for interested industries.
- Dash-boarding tools: Such tools can facilitate some industries to monitor operations, and facilitate critical, real-time decisions. Industrial and Healthcare industries are referred as interested industries.
- Big data visualization tools: Processing on big data and visualization needs separate components for making meaning of such high volume of information. Security & Surveillance is an industry that needs to integrate information of different type, quality and resources to monitor possible flaws and leaks.
- Social integration: Adding endpoints to social media data to enhance decisions and contextual information is another critical application field of the future enterprise. Security & Surveillance and Energy sectors are mainly linked with such applications for Microsoft.
- Enterprise Integration: One of the main challenges is to integrate many different solutions, especially in the IoT area. Smart home and Smart Cities are the main industries in this area.
Deloitte emphasises on strategic, operational and leadership issues. As expected, Deloitte is focused on operational and managerial issues, related with digital enterprises; nevertheless, components of the Deloitte Future Enterprise can be part of different layering. In detail, for these three different layers it proposes:
- Revenue Growth: The goal of this group of digital changes in enterprises is to increase customer demand and influence customer behaviour, long term, in order to increase business revenues. They are more strategic components, trying to enhance the position of the organization in the market.
- Internal Efficiency: These digital components change the way organizations operate, by limiting resources consumption and increase real-time interactions with the stakeholders. These components refer to the digital workplace and operations.
- Future Prospects: culture, risk and competition affect how an organisation stands in the long term, how it evolves and generates financial returns. This area has to do with strategic and leadership issues in a digital organization.
Capgemini defines a framework of seven clusters to connect future systems with people, virtualize as many resources as possible, expose everything under a service, and change everything on the fly, in a data-driven and collaborative manner.
Dion Hinchcliffe  in some older concepts introduces the next-generation enterprise, as an ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders, where technology enables all the interactions. Crowdsourcing, gamification and virtual resources are core elements of this concept. In some relative work, Dion Hinchcliffe gives a more detailed description, where digital architecture, business models, strategy, new products/services in interaction with the customers and the communities are described, again in an ecosystem (Figure 2-9). The capability to operate in such an environment is described as “digital metabolism”, but it is nothing more than leadership, digital operations and management of change in another package.
In a CPC report, there is an interrelation of an organization with people, combined with a digital organization, to define the future enterprise. The 7 aspects that define the digital enterprise are: digital marketplace/value chain, digital leadership, digital boundary, digital strategy, digital infrastructure, digital culture and digital capability. Boundaries is a concept that was also defined in the Deloitte’s report as digital risk management and governance.
Mark Skilton discusses about the context in digital enterprises, and how information and sensors can transform customers and employees’ experience, both in stores and workspaces. It is a very specific, microscopic, scenario-based analysis.
Important market players view the notion of Digital Enterprises through different perspectives, which evinces that Digital Enterprise is a rather broad term that encompasses both the internal and the external environment of an organisation.
Some of the presented approaches focus practically exclusively with the technological aspect (e.g. Microsoft); how integration will be realised as a whole, how data will be collected, with which data processing methods etc. From a different perspective, Deloitte, Dion Hinchcliffe and CPC pay particular attention on strategic, operational and leadership issues. The approach by Deloitte is also the only one that puts legislation and regulatory frameworks in the equation of the Digital Enterprise. Mark Skilton also separates the end users’ space in social/cultural, object and living and how they affect the business environment.
Nevertheless, a number of commonalities in the aforementioned analyses can be recognised as well:
- Almost all approaches emphasize on the whole lifecycle of data exploitation; collecting data from sensors, aggregating them, analysing and visualizing them.
- There is a shifting focus on social aspects; integrating collaborators and/or end-users (either directly or indirectly) through the proper ICT tools in the process is considered of particular importance.
- Another challenge commonly recognized is the need to invest on digital infrastructures and an agreed digital strategy while, in the same time, empowering people.